Adler Fleurizard doesn’t play, but he’s still the heart and soul of Fort Lauderdale High School’s soccer team.
"Adler has been an inspiration to this team, on and off the field, he’s considered my assistant coach, he has a really huge impact on the boys," said soccer coach Andre Reynolds.
Adler is extraordinary in many ways. He’s a special needs student with a developmental disability. That hasn’t stopped him from becoming perhaps the most popular kid on campus, from volunteering at the hospital, from acting in school productions, and from being the primary motivator for a soccer team that won the district championship.
"We have a joke that Adler was in the Patriots’ locker room and he helped them come back from that deficit because there’s only one person I can think of who could ever inspire anyone to be able to come back from something like that," said the team’s goal keeper, Parker Malman.
"I always tell them, I be telling them, losing’s not an option, I be telling them to stay focused on the game," Adler said. "Soccer season is over now, I can’t wait for next season and we will bring the championship home right here!"
The players listen, they listen and respect this young man, regardless of his disabilities.
"He’s a part of us, so we don’t really look at his disabilities or anything," said Asari Hay, a member of the soccer team.
Everyone at Fort Lauderdale High knows Adler. He’s almost a larger-than-life presence with his perpetually positive attitude.
"I like to study, I like to study, I always focus on my work and I always listen to my teachers to get my stuff done," Adler said.
Adler’s impact goes way beyond the soccer team and even beyond students. He inspires the adults around him as well.
"When he was on the stage doing his Shakespeare things, you know, I just, there’s a Jewish word for it called kvelling, and I kvelled," said Harve Brosten, his eyes welling with tears.
In a former life, Brosten wrote episodes of the landmark sitcom, "All in the Family," winning an Emmy award for his work. Now he teaches and mentors special needs kids like Adler. Brosten suggested Adler take up acting, and introduced him to Shakespeare.
"This is King Henry the Fifth," Adler explained, before showing us his acting chops. "Once more to the breach, victory will be ours! My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse! That’s King Richard the 2nd."
Now Adler loves acting, and his volunteer jobs at Broward Health Medical Center and at Publix.
"If my boss tells me, 'you can do this for me, Adler,' I’m like yes, I will do it for you, I can finish it and I can go to the next task,'" Adler said, demonstrating his can-do attitude.
He’s in a special program at school that teaches life and employment skills, and he’s hoping to get a job when he graduates.
"And I can be a hard worker, get my tasks done, and I can be anything I wanna be," said Adler, beaming.
"He’s very ambitious and he will succeed," Brosten said. "Our job is to make sure that he has all the tools to succeed."
Adler’s dream is to play soccer for Manchester United. Not likely to happen. Whatever he does, though, this is likely: Adler Fleurizard will make people happy.